Washing the car is a necessary evil; the practice keeps cars and helps them last longer, but the process comes with a negative impact on the environment, whether done at home or at a commercial car wash. An environmentally-friendly car wash is a commercial car wash or product that helps to minimize the environmental impact of washing a car. Some car washes have been built with features like filtration systems that allow for recycling water and cleaning products that break down once released into the environment.
Most commercial car washes use countless gallons of water each day in order to clean the cars that go through them. In many cases, the water is flushed into the area's sewer systems, where it then travels to a water treatment plant. An environmentally-friendly car wash typically has filtration systems installed that recycle as much of the water as can be salvaged by the system, reusing it for the next car wash instead of disposing of it. An efficient system can recycle as much as 90 percent of the used water.
The soaps, polishes, and other chemicals used in washing cars can also create a problem for the environment. They get washed off the car and into the sewer system, or drain into the ground surrounding the car wash. Biodegradable chemicals are typically one of the most important features of an environmentally-friendly car wash, as these soaps and cleaners are designed not to harm the environment; they break down and disappear instead of remaining in the soils and water.
Some other touches can help make the carbon footprint of an environmentally-friendly car wash even smaller. Towels may be made from materials that are sustainable or easily renewable. The inside of the car wash can also be made environmentally friendly, using recycled materials in areas where people wait for cars to be washed.
For the individual who prefers to wash his or her car at home, there are some environmentally-friendly car wash products available that have been designed to minimize water use and pollution. Typically, gallons of water are used in wetting the car, applying soap, and then rinsing. Some new products are simply sprayed onto a dry car, then wiped off with a rag. This not only saves on water, but also prevents soaps and polishes from being absorbed into the ground when water runs into the lawn or into sewer systems.